Special Collections Department
Edward Field Alfred
Manuscript Collection Number: 340
Accessioned: Purchase, May 1994
Extent: 4 linear feet
Content: Correspondence, books, clippings, reviews, printed material, paintings, photographs, realia
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: March 1997 by Julie Witsken
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
Table of Contents
Chester entered Washington Square College of New York University in 1945, where he made frequent contributions to NYU publications. After receiving his B.A. in English, he matriculated at Columbia University. He left before receiving a graduate degree and sailed for France in 1950 after a short trip to Mexico. Throughout most of the 1950s, Chester remained in Paris. The city was then a haven for great literary minds, and Chester established friendships with such people as Carson McCullers and James Baldwin. During that time, many of his short stories and essays were published in prominent French magazines; in 1955 Here Be Dragons, a collection of four short stories, was published by a small press in Paris. The next year the work was published in London, followed by Chester's first novel, Jamie Is My Heart's Desire.
By the time Jamie Is My Heart's Desire was published in New York in 1957, Chester's literary reputation was recognized in the United States. Chester won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957, and his short stories were chosen for inclusion in Prize Stories 1956: The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories of 1957. The sale of the story "A War on Salamis" to the New Yorker provided Chester with the funds to return to New York in 1959. Back in the United States, Chester found himself at the center of the literary scene. His short stories continued to be published, mostly by small literary magazines such as the Transatlantic Review. In contrast to his fiction, his critical works appeared in the most prestigious New York publications, such as the Partisan Review and Commentary. Chester was in constant demand during this time; editors continually hounded him for stories and particularly reviews, which were always much talked-about for their direct attacks on such esteemed writers as J.D. Salinger. Chester resented the demand for his criticism over his fiction, which he felt was the more important avenue for his creative energies.
Wishing to escape the New York literary scene and concentrate on his fiction, Chester moved to Morocco in 1963. He could not completely separate himself from New York literary circles, however, as his poverty forced him to continue doing reviews. His fiction met with even less praise than previously. Disappointment in poor reviews of his fiction increased Chester's determination to continue writing the way he saw fit. He refused to compromise his ideals and temper his more outrageous work, and he denounced his more conventional works.
While in Morocco, Chester's mental health suffered. Chester was at the time involved with a bisexual Moroccan, Driss B. L. El Kasri. When Chester's friend Susan Sontag, then famed for her Notes on Camp, announced her plans to visit Chester, he feared the beautiful writer would steal Driss away from him. (Chester had temporarily lost his companion Arthur Davis in a similar manner in 1959.) For the first time, he began to experience serious conflict over his homosexuality; dealing with it drove him mad. When antisocial and threatening behavior brought on by his madness was called to the attention of the Moroccan authorities, Chester was expelled from the country in 1965. He returned to New York, where his literary production declined along with his mental health. He wrote only one work during that time, The Foot, and refused to write reviews or even to see friends.
Chester did not stay in New York for long, but soon returned to the Morocco he perceived as paradise. He was again expelled. He spent the remaining years of his life wandering from country to country in search of a substitute paradise. He eventually settled in Jerusalem, where he was found dead in 1971. Israeli authorities reported that his death was the apparent result of the alcohol and drugs he took to combat his dementia.
Besides becoming an accomplished poet, Field has also edited anthologies of poetry and produced the narration for the documentary film To Be Alive, which won an Academy Award in 1965. Another of his literary endeavors has been to champion his friend Alfred Chester's works for reprint and to revive Chester's literary reputation. He is now the editor of The Alfred Chester Newsletter and collaborates on fiction with Neil Derrick.
Sources:Field, Edward. Counting Myself Lucky: Selected Poems 1963-1992. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1992.
Meanor, Patrick, ed. American Short Story Writers Since World War II. 130. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.
Scope and Content Note
Series I contains correspondence from Chester to several friends and to his cousin. Letters to Theodora Blum McKee, Edward Field, and Robert Friend are originals; all others are photocopies of originals which were collected by Edward Field. Also included are Edward Field's typed transcriptions of most of the letters. In most cases files of the originals/photocopies are followed by files of transcriptions with corresponding contents. However, in some cases individual original letters are present without the corresponding transcriptions, and vice versa. The series also contains letters to Chester from Edward Field, Chester's lover Arthur Davis, and Maurice Girodias. The series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, with individual folders of originals/photocopies immediately followed by corresponding folders of transcriptions.
The letters cover the years 1950 to 1970, with correspondence tapering off after 1967 as Chester's insanity caused him to withdraw from the world and neglect his friends. Chester wrote very detailed letters, highly personal in nature, which provide a wealth of information about his circumstances as well as his innermost thoughts. In the letters he discusses everything from publishing matters, works in progress, Moroccan culture, Beat culture and other Beats, to love affairs.
Series II contains biographical information and materials. The biographical information consists of a typed chronology compiled by Edward Field; a taped interview of Harriet Sohmers Zwerlig about Chester; a list of quotations from others praising Chester's works; Life Without Mirrors, a screenplay about Chester by Edward Field and Neil Derrick; and newspaper clippings of obituaries. Also included are articles and memoirs of Chester written by Edward Field and other friends of Chester, such as fellow writer Cynthia Ozick. Field wrote and solicited the memoirs during his campaign to get Chester's works reprinted. Other "biographical" material in Series II consists of photographs and copies of photos of Chester, four paintings by Chester's lover Driss, and clay from Chester's grave.
Series III contains Chester's published works and material directly relating to those works. The series is subdivided into three sections. Within each sub-series, the works are arranged chronologically. The first sub-series consists of works published as articles or included in anthologies, as well as some photocopies of works. The second sub-series contains published books. In the third sub-series are copyrights for, correspondence relating to, and reviews of publications which Field championed for reprint after Chester's death, most notably Looking for Genet (1992), Head of a Sad Angel (1990), and The Exquisite Corpse (1986). In some instances, copies and tearsheets of stories and articles printed in those works are included. Also included are Field's typed transcriptions of Alfred's letters from Morocco, which Field hoped to publish collectively as Voyage to Destruction and which were published in part in various literary magazines, journals, and newspaper sections. Others' works pertaining to Chester, however tangentially, and material relating to those works are also contained in this sub-series.
Series IV contains evidence of Field's devotion to Chester and of his efforts to reestablish Chester's literary reputation. The bulk of the series is correspondence between Field and Chester's friends, such as Paul Bowles, and publishers. Many of these letters address publication concerns and discuss Field's editorial procedures, such as including or expurgating certain material while editing Chester's letters. They also provide friends' anecdotes and memories of Chester. Series IV contains other material documenting Field's efforts to revive Chester's writing, such as Field's letters to the editor of the New York Times; his handwritten biographical and bibliographical notes; and a mailing list for Field's Alfred Chester Newsletter, as well as copies of the first six issues of that publication (1987- ).
Related collections:Ms 285 Alfred Chester Letters to Curtis Harnack
Ms 363 Edward Field Papers
I. Correspondence, 1950-1970 1. Outgoing, 1950-1970 2. Incoming, 1954 and n.d. II. Biographical III. Works by Chester 1. Works Printed in Magazines and Anthologies 2. Works Published as Books 3. Material Related to Posthumous Publications IV. Edward Field, 1965-1994 1. Correspondence, 1965-1994 2. Chester Revival 3. Biographical and Bibliographical Notes 4. Alfred Chester Newsletter
Series I. Correspondence, 1950-1970. All letters and postcards are photocopies of originals unless otherwise noted. Also included are Edward Field's typed transcriptions of most letters. In some cases, original letters are present without the corresponding transcriptions and vice versa. Also contains telegrams, Federal Express orders, and enclosures. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, with individual folders of originals/photcopies followed by corresponding folders of transcriptions when provided. Series I.1. Outgoing, 1950-1970. Contains correspondence from Chester to his friends and cousin, Shirley. 1 F1 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1950-1951 Original letters and postcards. (31 items) F2 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1950-1951 (transcriptions) F3 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1952-1953 Original letters and postcards. (37 items) F4 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1952-1953 (transcriptions) F5 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1954-1966 Original letters and postcards. (40 items) F6 Blum (McKee), Theodora, 1954-1966 (transcriptions) F7 Bowles, Paul, 1963-1970 (25 items) F8 Bowles, Paul, 1963-1970 (transcriptions) F9 Broughton, James, 1955-1964 (13 items) F10 Broughton, James, 1955-1964 (transcriptions) F11 Chester, Shirley, 1951 and n.d. (3 items) F12 Chester, Shirley, 1951 and n.d. (transcriptions) 1 Series I. Correspondence, 1950-1970 (cont'd) Series I. 1. Outgoing, 1950-1970 (cont'd) F13 DeMott, Helen, 1960 (2 items) F14 DeMott, Helen, 1960 (transcriptions) F15 Field, Edward, 1958-1961 Original letters. (9 items) F16 Field, Edward, 1958-1961 (transcriptions) F17 Field, Edward, 1963 Original letters. (33 items) F18 Field, Edward, 1963 (transcriptions) F19 Field, Edward, 1964 Original letters. Includes letters from Chester to his cousin Sam and from Paul Bowles to Ira Cohen. (58 items) F20 Field, Edward, 1964 (transcriptions) F21 Field, Edward, 1965-1967 and n.d. Original letters. (27 items) F22 Field, Edward, 1965-1967 and n.d. (transcriptions) F23 Formes, Maria Irene,  (19 items) F24 Formes, Maria Irene,  (transcriptions) F25 Friend, Robert, 1970 Original letter. (1 item) F26 Friend, Robert, 1970 (transcriptions) F27 Glass, Norman, 1964-1965 (28 items) 1 Series I. Correspondence, 1950-1970 (cont'd) Series I. 1. Outgoing, 1950-1970 (cont'd) F28 Glass, Norman, 1964-1965 (transcriptions) F29 Gould, Nadia, 1965 (6 items) F30 Gould, Nadia, 1965 (transcriptions) F31 Harnack, Curtis, 1951-1958 Originals are held at the University of Delaware, manuscript collection 285. (30 items) F32 Harnack, Curtis, 1951-1958 (transcriptions) F33 Heffner, Marvin, 1951, 1957 Includes letter from Heffner to Theodora Blum. (5 items) F34 Heffner, Marvin, 1951, 1957 (transcriptions) F35 Newton, Douglas, 1954-1955 Original letters. Includes letter from Newton to Field explaining names mentioned in Chester's letters. (13 items) F36 Selby, Dennis, 1963-1964 (22 items) F37 Selby, Dennis, 1963-1964 (transcriptions) F38 Sohmers (Zwerlig), Harriet, 1962-1965 (20 items) F39 Sohmers (Zwerlig), Harriet, 1962-1965 (transcriptions) F40 Sontag, Susan, 1964 (1 item) F41 Sontag, Susan, 1964 (transcription) 1 Series I. Correspondence, 1950-1970 (cont'd) Series I. 1. Outgoing, 1950-1970 (cont'd) F42 van Itallie, Jean-Claude, n.d. (2 items) F43 Walter, Eugene, n.d. Photocopies returned to Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where originals are held. F44 Walter, Eugene, n.d. (transcriptions) Series I.2. Incoming, 1954 and n.d. Contains correspondence to Chester. F45 Davis, Arthur, n.d Original letters. (6 items) F46 Field, Edward, 1954 (12 items) F47 Girodias, Maurice, 1963 (1 item) 2 Series II. Biographical Contains biographical information and Chester's personal belongings. F48 Typed chronology of Chester's life (1 item, 3 pages) Writings about Chester F49 By Edward Field Includes tearsheets, clippings, photocopies and drafts of articles written by Field about Chester. (5 items) F50 By Cynthia Ozick Includes tearsheets, photocopies, and typed versions of articles written by Ozick about Chester. Also contains the Mar. 30, 1992 issue of The New Yorker, in which Ozick's article Alfred Chester's Wig was published. (5 items) 2 Series II. Biographical (cont'd) Writings about Chester (cont'd) F51 By others Includes drafts, some with autograph corrections, photocopies, and typed versions of articles written by Dennis Selby, Harriet Sohmers, Theodora Blum McKee, Diana Athill and others about Chester. A poem by Robert Friend is also included, as are introductory letters from the various writers to Edward Field. (17 items) F52 Tape of interview with Harriet Sohmers about Chester (1 item) F53 Life Without Mirrors Photocopy of typescript of Neil Derrick and Edward Field's screenplay about Chester's life. (1 item, 111 pages) F54 Typed copies of quotations from others praising Chester and his works (2 items) F55 Newspaper clippings and photocopies of Chester obituaries (5 items) F56 Photographs Photos, negatives, and photocopies of photos of Chester, his friends, and a painting of Chester by Herman Rose. Most are labeled. (about 33 items) F57 Paintings and drawings Two watercolor paintings and two chalk drawings by Chester's lover, Driss B. L. El Kasri. F58 Piece of clay from Chester's grave 3 Series III. Works Contains Chester's works in published form and materials directly relating to those works. Works are arranged chronologically according to date of publication. Series III. 1. Works printed in magazines and anthologies Also includes photocopies. F59 The Soft Spot. Short story. Apprentice May 1948. F60 Sun in Your Eyes. Short story. Apprentice January 1949. Includes photocopy. F61 Morituri. Poem. Compass February 1949. F62 Dance for Dead Lovers. Short story. Merlin Spring 1952. F63 Silence in Heaven. Short story. Botteghe Oscvre 9 (1952). F64 Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Short story. Botteghe Oscvre 12 (1953). F65 Head of a Sad Angel. Short story. Botteghe Oscvre 14 (1954). F66 Anatomy of Coming Back. Short story. Botteghe Oscvre 19 (1957). F67 As I Was Going Up the Stair. Short story. Sewanee Review Spring 1957. F68 A War on Salamis. Short story. New Yorker 25 Apr. 1959. F69 Behold Goliath. Short story. Princeton Review 4 Summer 1961. F70 Beds and Boards. Short story. New Yorker 10 Mar. 1962. F71 Salinger: How to Love Without Love. Essay. Commentary Jun. 1963. F72 Looking for Genet. Essay. Commentary Apr. 1964. F73 Glory Hole. Short story. Evergreen Mar. 1965. F74 The Foot. Short story. New American Review 9. New York: New American Library, 1970. F75 Safari. Short story. New American Review 15. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1972. F76 Letters from Morocco. Edited by Edward Field. Confrontation Spring/Summer 1988. Includes photocopies. 3 Series III. Works (cont'd) Series III. 1. Works printed in magazines and anthologies (cont'd) F77 Flung Out: The MacDowell Colony Letters. Edited by Edward Field. Christopher Street, vol. 13 No. 1, 1990. Two copies of Christopher Street and photocopies. F78 Tanger Peepshow. Work in German. Du June 1990. Undated publications F79 Forever Amoeba. Photocopy of published short story. n.d. F80 Fairy Tales: Glammis and His Ambitious Wife; The Princess' Vanity; The Unhappy Giantess; and Timothy and the King of Roses. Photocopies of holograph manuscripts. Returned to the University of Texas. n.d. F81 Wachter, Wat Is Er Van de Nacht?. Photocopy of work published in German. n.d. F82 Edward Albee: Red Herrings and White Whales. Photocopy of review. n.d. Series III. 2. Works published as books Also includes photocopies of some works. F83 Chariot of Flesh. Two photocopies of novel published under the psuedonym Malcolm Nesbit. F84 Here Be Dragons. Paris: Editions Finisterre, 1955. Also includes photocopy of Dance for Dead Lovers, story included in Here Be Dragons. Autographed by author. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. F85 Jamie is My Heart's Desire. London: Andre Deutsch, 1956. Autographed by author. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. F86 Meine Augen Konnen Ihn Sehen. London: Andre Deutch, 1957. German edition of Jamie is My Heart's Desire. Autographed by author. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. 3 Series III. Works (cont'd) Series III. 2. Works published as books (cont'd) F87 Behold Goliath. New York: Random House, 1964. Includes photocopy of Two Fables, work included in Behold Goliath. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. F88 The Exquisite Corpse. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. F89 Brooklyn Blues. Munich: Verlag Kurt Desch GmbH, 1970. German edition of The Exquisite Corpse. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. F90 The Exquisite Corpse. New York: Carroll Graf Publishers, Inc., 1986. Paperback. Reprint of original published in 1967. F91 Head of a Sad Angel. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1990. Paperback. F92 Head of a Sad Angel. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1990. F93 Divertissement de Coin de Rue. Kent State Libraries, 1990. One-act play in French. Also includes photocopy of typescript. F94 Looking for Genet. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1992. Paperback. F95 Looking for Genet. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1992. F96 Die Sehnsucht Der Menschenfresser. Berlin: Albino Verlag, 1993. German edition of The Exquisite Corpse. Transferred to printed holdings in Special Collections. 3 Series III. Works (cont'd) Series III. 3. Material related to posthumous publications Contains material, such as correspondence and copyrights, relating to Chester's works championed into reprint by Field after Chester's death. Also includes copies and tearsheets of stories and articles included in those works; others' works mentioning or otherwise related to Chester; and Field's typed transcriptions of Alfred's letters from Morocco. The letters are nearly complete, and it was Field's hope to publish them collectively under the title Voyage to Destruction. Though they were never published that way, parts of them were printed in various magazines, journals and newspaper literary sections. Material is arranged by date of publication, with the letters from Morocco-related material last. The Exquisite Corpse (Caroll Graf Publishers, Inc., 1986) F97 Correspondence Correspondence relating to the reprinting of The Exquisite Corpse. Includes letter of agreement between German publisher and Chester estate for rights to publish book in German. (5 items) F98 Copyright information Photocopies of copyright agreements and of letter regarding copyright. (3 items) F99 Reviews and announcements (25 items) 4 Flung Out: The MacDowell Colony Letters (Christopher Street, 1990) F100 Copies of Field's various drafts of introduction to a group of Chester's letters from the MacDowell Colony. The letters were published in Christopher Street, vol.13, 1990. (5 items) Head of a Sad Angel (Black Sparrow Press, 1990) F101 Works Tearsheets of printed works contained in Head of a Sad Angel. Also contains typed and copied versions of works, as well as a letter to Field from Norman Glass regarding corrections for his essay The Decline and Fall of Alfred Chester. (11 items) 4 Series III. Works (cont'd) Series III. 3. Posthumous works-related (cont'd) Head of a Sad Angel (cont'd) F102 Correspondence Correspondence related to reprinting of Head of a Sad Angel. Primarily letters from Dennis Selby, Norman Glass, etc. granting permission to include their essays in the work. (27 items) F103 Copyright Copyrights for various works included in Head of a Sad Angel and correspondence regarding the copyrights. (17 items) F104 Reviews and announcements Tearsheets and copies of reviews of and articles relating to Head of a Sad Angel; announcements; and book cover. (23 items) Looking for Genet (Black Sparrow Press, 1992) F105 Works Copies and drafts of various works included in Looking for Genet. (10 items) F106 Correspondence Correspondence related to reprint of Looking for Genet. Includes Federal Express receipt. (16 items) F107 Copyright (1 item) F108 Reviews Copies of reviews of Looking for Genet, announcement of publication, and list of publications in which Looking for Genet was reviewed. (12 items) Letters from Morocco F109 Letters from Morocco, correspondence Correspondence relating to Field's attempts to publish the letters as a collected work. (6 items) 4 Series III. Works (cont'd) Series III. 3. Posthumous works-related (cont'd) Letters from Morocco (cont'd) F110 Letters from Morocco, editorial notes Copies of various editorial notes and introductions Field had prepared for the collection of letters. (9 items) F111 Letters from Morocco, published Published versions of selected letters from The New York Native and Louisiana State University's The Exquisite Corpse. (2 items) Moroccan Letters, 1963-1970 Field's typed transcriptions of Chester's letters from Morocco F112 1963 F113 1964 Jan - Mar F114 Apr - Jun F115 Jul - Dec F116 1965 Jan - Apr F117 1965 - 1970 F118 Other works Reviews, copyrights, and correspondence regarding other Chester works. (12 items) F119 Others' works related to Chester Contains a review of Michelle Green's The Dream at the End of the World: Paul Bowles and the Literary Renegades in Tangier; an article by Abby Frucht entitled The Objects of My Invention; and a copy of an entry in the Michigan Quarterly Review on Curtis Harnack. (3 items) 4 Series IV. Edward Field Contains evidence of Field's devotion to Chester and documents his efforts to reestablish Chester's literary reputation. Series IV. 1. Correspondence, 1965-1994 Letters from publishers and friends of Chester address publication concerns, discuss Field's editorial procedures, and provide anecdotes and memories of Chester. General correspondence is arranged chronologically; more sizable collections from individuals follow in alphabetical order. Includes drafts and photocopies of letters, Federal Express receipts and some enclosures. F120 1965-1988 (86 items) F121 1989-1991 Includes letters from Susan Sontag and William Burroughs. (74 items) F122 1992-1994 Includes photo of Paul Bowles. (46 items) F123 n.d. (26 items) F124 Bowles, Paul, 1986-1991 (6 items) F125 Chester, Herman and Jeff, 1981-1993 Letters from Chester's brother and nephew, executors of the Chester estate. Includes letters from Field. (99 items) F126 Friend, Robert, 1970-1972 (5 items) F127 Glass, Norman, 1986-1990 (13 items) F128 Hibbard, Allan, 1990-1994 (8 items) F129 Martin, John (Black Sparrow Press), 1988-1994 Includes letter from Norman Glass to Martin. (16 items) 4 Series IV. Edward Field (cont'd) Series IV. 1. Correspondence, 1965-1994 (cont'd) F130 Ozick, Cynthia, 1986-1993 Includes several letters from Field to Ozick. (27 items) Series IV. 2. Chester revival F131 Chester revival Material documenting Field's efforts to revive Chester's work: clippings from the New York Times, Daily Kent Stater, and the New York University Alumni News. (7 items) Series IV. 3. Biographical and Bibliographical notes F132 Field's autograph biographical and bibliographical notes on Chester (about 50 items) Series IV. 4. Alfred Chester Newsletter F133 Alfred Chester Newsletter, 1987- Mailing list and copies of newsletter numbers 1- 6 (excluding 5), as well as numbers 8 and 9, compiled by Field. (8 items)
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